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Lower-body boost

From letters and regular surveys, Shape learns what you, the readers, want to see more or less of on our pages. One thing you consistently ask for is quick-results workouts that are easy to follow and don't require a gym. You asked. We listened. Here, we kick off our At-Home Workout column.

Here, we feature two workouts, strength training and cardio, that require little or no equipment and can be combined to make a complete program. This is an extra-special strength workout, an exclusive from the just-released video "Shaping Up With Weights for Dummies" (Anchor Bay Entertainment). Here's your chance to (finally!) learn to do some basic, super-effective exercises correctly. This three-day-a-week program takes about an hour. Begin each workout with a five-minute warm-up, walking briskly or marching in place and doing arm circles. Finish by stretching all the muscles you worked, holding each stretch for 20 seconds without bouncing. The cardio segment is based on a super-effective method called "pyramid training," which ups your intensity for quick payoffs.

Cardio
This cardio workout is a form of pyramid training: You gradually increase your intensity until you reach your "peak" or maximum effort level, then gradually lower it again.

This type of training is a manageable way to work at a higher intensity, which lets you burn more calories and get in better cardiovascular shape. Apply it to any cardio machine or your favorite outdoor workout (running, cycling, etc.). Monitor your effort level using a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE, see below). Or, if you have a heart-rate monitor, you can use the percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR; to figure yours, subtract your age from 220).

To increase the intensity of your workouts (and your heart rate), change your speed or other equipment-specific variable, such as the incline on a treadmill or elliptical trainer or the resistance on a bike. Remember: The work you can do at a given RPE or percentage of MHR will change as you get fitter, so expect to increase your workout levels in the weeks to come.

Total Workout Time: 40 Minutes

Your Workout Goal
To increase your heart rate in increments until you reach RPE 8-9 or 80-85 percent of your MHR. Then you'll bring your heart rate back down. Your workout will look like this:

Warm-up
5 minutes at RPE 5 (about 55% MHR)

Workout
5 minutes at RPE 6 (about 70% MHR)
5 minutes at RPE 6-7 (about 75% MHR)
5 minutes at RPE 7-8 (about 80% MHR)
5 minutes at RPE 8-9 (about 80-85% MHR)
5 minutes at RPE 6-7 (about 75% MHR)
5 minutes at RPE 6 (about 70% MHR)

Cool-down
5 minutes at RPE 5 (about 55% MHR)

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